Army sends help for AF security shortage
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — An Air Force security forces shortage, a source of “great angst” for the service’s top brass, will soon see some relief from the Army.
In December, Defense Department officials announced plans to mobilize up to 10,000 Army National Guard soldiers to provide security at Air Force installations worldwide.
The initiative exemplifies “the spirit of cooperation” that exists between the services and should not be seen as the “Army bailing out the Air Force,” said Army Lt. Col. Dan Stoneking, a Pentagon spokesman.
Citing security concerns, Stoneking said he couldn’t give specific deployment dates and locations. But he stated that guardsmen were to begin deploying after the holiday season, primarily to 163 Air Force bases in the United States.
Pacific Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Geisel said no PACAF installations would use Army guardsmen for their force protection missions.
He noted, however, that the command has “partially activated” some of its Air National Guard units in Alaska and Hawaii to relieve PACAF security forces that have been on back-to-back air expeditionary force deployments. Those units, assigned to active components in Hawaii and Alaska, will demobilize in the spring, he said.
The Air Force has been strapped for trained security forces since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, according to Secretary of the Air Force James. G. Roche.
During a November visit to Kadena, Roche said security personnel have been stretched thin. To compensate, the service called up thousands of reservists and has relied on a massive augmentee force to guard gates at bases around the world.
But Roche said it “hurts” him to see airmen trained in other specialties doing security work. The use of augmentees and the lack of security personnel have caused him and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper “great angst and pain,” he said.
“That’s part of having too many bases to protect … we’ve never had to defend everything at home and everything overseas at the same time,” he added.
The effort to provide homeland security in the continental United States has absorbed much of the military’s guard and reserve units normally called up to support operations overseas, Roche said.
The secretary noted that the Air Force had extended for a second year of service about 9,500 guardsmen performing security duties.
The mobilization will ensure fairness and equitable distribution of armed forces, Stoneking said. It also will ensure Guard and reserve members are fully integrated with the active component.
Stoneking said the Air Force is considering contracting security guards to alleviate the security crunch. The 2003 Defense Authorization Act allows military installations such hiring to meet the new security needs.
Roche noted that the Air Force plans to direct many more incoming recruits and shift personnel from other occupations into the security field.
In the interim, as it works to beef up its security forces, the Air Force will continue to get by with what it has.
Spokesman Geisel said PACAF base commanders will continue to use augmentees when necessary.
“We too are concerned about overusing augmentees,” he said. “For a short duration it is not too much of a problem, but when we get into extended use, we need to closely monitor their use so that we don’t adversely impact their training, upgrades … in their primary career fields.”
Geisel said some air bases that share locations with other services or host country forces are teaming up to meet security needs.
At Yokota Air Base in Japan, Japanese civilian guards, who receive a paycheck from the Japanese government, and Japanese National Police help the 374th Security Forces Squadron protect the base, said squadron commander Maj. John Quattrone.
“We never requested them,” he said, referring to the Army reservists and National Guard soldiers. “We have a pretty solid force-protection posture based on available personnel.”
The decision whether to bring in additional reserves for force protection is made at higher levels in PACAF, he said.
After 9/11, as many as 100 augmentees from other career fields at Yokota supplemented force protection. But, as of Tuesday, based on the force protection level, “we don’t have any augmentees working with us,” Quattrone said.
Using the latest technology puts less of a strain on personnel, Quattrone said. The squadron plans to set up road blades at entry gates by the end of January. The electronic devices, which display a series of jagged razor blades at the touch of a button, allow one guard to man the gates. The road blades replace the so-called “stop sticks,” a barrier of cones and spikes on material attached to a rope. With the road blades, the guard can check ID cards and quickly trigger the razor blades if there’s a problem.
Yokota is the first base in PACAF to use the device, Quattrone said.
At Misawa Air Base in northern Japan, base security is being augmented by the Naval Air Facility Security Detachment, said 35th Fighter Wing spokeswoman Capt. Miki Gilloon.
Gilloon said in the aftermath of 9/11, augmentation of Air Force security came from troops assigned to 35th Fighter Wing, Misawa Cryptologic Operations Center, Naval Air Facility Misawa, and the 3rd Air Wing of the Japan Air Self Defense Force.
“Support from Naval Air Facility Misawa has been critical to the 35th Security Forces Squadron’s ability to maintain a manageable shift schedule,” Gilloon said.
Base officials also use the 35th Fighter Wing’s Reserve Resource Augmentation Duty, or READY, program and have plans in place with the 3rd Air Wing and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force for additional augmented support, if required, Gilloon said.
— Jennifer Svan and Wayne Specht contributed to this story.